Sunday night (yes, that’d be 4/20, which the band noted to general snickers), we took in The Raconteurs at Vancouver’s excellent Commodore Ballroom. It was nice to get out for an evening of rock & roll, and there are some great songs, but my feelings were mixed.
As I’ve written before, it’s really great that there’s this guy 20 years younger than me who is pushing back the edges of a kind of music that I’ve always really loved. And while I like the White Stripes, it’s also nice that Jack is spending time in an actual band with other actual musicians.
Highlights · Well, for me, the three big hits: Blue Vein, Steady As She Goes, and Broken Boy Soldiers. The Blue Vein performance wasn’t as over-the-top as I’ve seen them do it on TV, but it was pretty impressive, and beautiful in its way. Steady was much better than the album version, with Jack reaching back for more on his half of the call-and-response vocals.
Another good thing is Brendan Benson; his singing and guitar are worth going out to hear on their own, and contrast very nicely with Jack.
As for Jack, the atonal treble guitar squeals that kind of irritate me on record work better at concert volume; or maybe he’s just got them better-integrated into his breaks these days. And he played some really touching and subtle piano parts.
And finally, the whole band brings a lot, really a lot, of intensity to the stage. It’s very rock & roll.
Problems · I’ve heard other bands get way better sound at the Commodore.
Toward the end of the evening, I realized one reason the Raconteurs sound different; neither Brendan nor Jack actually play much rhythm guitar. Brendan doesn’t seem to have it in him. Jack is usually tearing off lead riffs, but when he just got behind a rhythm I thought the whole band sounded better. I think the band would be improved by a good strong driving rhythm guitar. But maybe they like it that way.
The other problem is deeper. White Stripes is pretty well all Jack’s show, Meg mostly just gets out of the way. In a “real” band like the Raconteurs, what you’d like is for the musicians to drive each other; any serious live-music fan, and anyone who’s ever performed, knows the feeling when someone you’re playing with gets really hot and lifts you onto a higher plane of performance.
Except for, the band didn’t ever really drive Jack, near as I could tell. There were a couple of times when he was pushing the rest of them higher, but when he’s playing, he’s extremely inward-facing. I mean, I’ll pay to go see him any time he comes to town, but I think it’d do him good to get onstage with someone who scares him a little.